“To be or not to be, that is the question.” More to the point, to open or not to open. It’s what’s on the mind of millions upon millions across the United States quarantined in their homes by the Coronavirus. And not only that, there is the question of when.
Elected and unelected officials across our once burgeoning nation are trying to answer this question, the keyword here “trying” as the answer is proving to be quite elusive. Not only is the “when” a tough one to answer, but the “how” is also one up for grabs. Obviously, the flood gates can’t just open. That flattened curve we’ve been working so hard to achieve with all the social distancing and stay-at-home orders would be for naught if the general population was allowed to congregate in masses right from the get-go. So, what would it look like, this reopening of our proud country, during a pandemic?
Disney Springs Opens To Huge Lines – May 27, 2020
While Disney parks remain mostly closed through July 11, on May 27 they began a phased reopening of Disney Springs. A select number of shopping locations and restaurants are now open in that specific area of the park. The response has been huge with wait times of up to six hours just to get in to Disney Springs.
Disney Springs opened with the following requirements…
- Limited parking and reduced entrances
- Temperature screenings prior to entry
- Face coverings required for Guests ages 3 and up
- Physical distancing practices including physically-distanced queues and physical barriers
- Temporary operation modifications, including reduced hours at select locations and no scheduled entertainment offerings or high-touch interactive areas
- An increased focus on disinfecting and sanitation, including the addition of hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers in key areas
It seems like people are mostly following the guidelines so far…
However this outlet below seems to be trying to make it look like they are not…
It’s worth noting the photo may be deceptive. It seems like most of the people standing close together are family members. Of course that hasn’t stopped Twitter from responding in horrified outrage…
IRS Sends Stimulus Checks To Dead People – May 7, 2020
Millions of Americans are on the verge of losing their homes because the government hasn’t let them work. To get the economy going again, those people need money. In theory, the stimulus checks approved by the US government should help with this. But for them to help, they’d have to actually send them to people. Instead, it seems they’ve been sending a lot of them to dead people.
That’s right, the IRS screwed up and sent stimulus checks to dead people. And now they want the loved ones of those deceased relatives to send the money back.
They even updated their stimulus check guidelines to let the public, both dead and alive, know where they officially stand in regard to stimulus payments. It’s pretty simple in the eyes of the IRS. Send the check back.
In part, their update says, “Return the entire payment unless the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.”
When the physical checks were first distributed on April 16, there were some out there who said the IRS sent money to their dead relatives. This error was caused by the IRS using tax filings from the previous two years in determining where and to whom the checks would go. The previous filings do not say if a person has passed away or not.
If you somehow happen to fall into this category (not being dead but receiving a check for someone who has passed) the IRS has given two methods to return the check. 1) If it is a paper check and has not been cashed, they would like you to write “VOID” on the back of the check in the endorsement section, then send the check in to the appropriate address with a note saying why the check is being returned.
Or 2) If the money has been directly deposited, write out a check for the appropriate amount and send it into the IRS with a note explaining why. Be sure to include the deceased person’s social security number in the note.
Tesla Cancels Plans To Ignore Stay At Home Orders – April 28
Tesla was working restarting its Fremont factory, despite stay at home orders still being in place in California. Bloomberg obtained internal messages from the company asking certain members of its workforce to resume operations on April 29. Specifically they are asking employees responsible for paint and stamping operations to come back to the job. That restart flew in the face of California’s stay at home order, which at the time extended through May 3rd.
Tesla’s early reopening plans have now been cancelled however, after local authorities trumped the company by extending stay at home orders all the way through May 30th. According to CNBC this message was sent out to Tesla employees…
“Per the direction of the executive leadership team, we will not be returning to work Wednesday, April 29. Please disregard all communication and directives on returning to work this week.”
The sheriff’s department there has previously warned Tesla that if they operate during the time of the lockdown they’d be violating health and safety codes. That said, being closed is costing Tesla $300 million per week. Additionally, the 10,000 employees of the Fremont plant would probably like to keep their jobs. If the plant stays closed Tesla may go under and if Tesla goes under all 10,000 employees will have no job to go back to when the lockdown order is finally lifted.
It’s likely that as the economic impact of the shutdown continues to mount, Tesla won’t be the only company to consider violating the orders. Both employees and employers are eager to get back to work, since the consequences of not getting back to work may be permanent unemployment.
California’s Plan To Reopen
California is the biggest state in the United States, and as such what they do will help pave the path for other states. And increasingly it sounds like what they are doing is keeping everything shut down indefinitely.
California Governor Gavin Newsom went on CBS This Morning where he revealed that he does not expect kids to go back to school in September as normal. And he definitely does not expect professional sports to resume at any time soon.
Here’s what he said when specifically asked if kids will go back to school as normal in September…
“Yeah, I don’t know as normal. And none of the above as normal. I think that would be unrealistic to assert. You have to radically change the floor plans in the schools, in businesses, private-public institutions, large and small. We’re gonna have new protocols and procedures, temperature checks, people wearing face coverings across the spectrum.”
Perhaps we take a cue from California’s Governor Gavin Newsom. While that may be a hard pill for many to swallow, Gov. Newsom laid out what he feels is the best way to take California off life-support. Not only did he provide a complex, six must-have points to hit before he’d consider opening the country plan, he also detailed what could be the new normal in California.
Newsom does not have a specific date in mind for reopening but did the date would come when the state has the ability to do six things. They are:
- (1) expand COVID-19 testing to better identify and isolate patients;
- (2) maintain our attentiveness to protect high-risk people and seniors;
- (3) our ability to meet future surges in hospitals with a “myriad of protective gear”;
- (4) continue our collaboration with health professionals on therapies and treatments;
- (5) continue physical/social distancing at schools and private businesses; and
- (6) allowing the state to pull back so it can reinstate stay-at-home order by developing new enforcement mechanisms.
These “guidelines” seem well thought out and even reasonable. They even seem smart, the proper thing to do if we are in this to truly beat COVID-19. But the question then remains, when? How long will it take to get to this point?
According to Newsom, per CNN, and how he views it working in California, “There is no light switch here, it’s more like a dimmer,” Newsom said. “I know you want the timeline, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves and dream of regretting. Let’s not make the mistake of pulling the plug too early, as much as we want to. I don’t want to make a political decision that puts people’s lives at risk and puts the economy at even more risk by extending the period of time before we can ultimately transition and get people moving again.”
Newsome claims how he plans on making this decision will come down to real-time data and science. He continued with his “dimmer” analogy talking about loosening orders moving forward “to toggle that dimmer, so we get exactly the appropriate lighting so that we can ultimately transition to herd immunity and that vaccine.”
Newsom did tell reporters to check back with him in two weeks’ time when he may have a better handle on exact dates providing there is a flattening and then a decline in California coronavirus hospitalization rates. There will also need to be a reduction in the number of people occupying intensive care beds. One more major factor, in Newsom’s eyes, would be the building of a workforce of healthcare workers who have the ability to trace virus infections so they can isolate those infected. So, let’s add these to the six previous guidelines.
Newsom did warn, though, when things get back to normal, normal may not be the normal we are used to seeing. The new normal may be around for quite some time.
Newsom feels we will probably continue to see residents wearing face masks. When restaurants open, he sees patrons being greeted by waiters wearing masks and gloves, handing out disposable menus, serving half the allowed tables. He feels local school officials will develop protocols for physical education classes, schools introducing staggered start times, changes to how kids congregate in school cafeterias.
He also spoke of large gatherings. “The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity, and we get to a vaccine. So large-scale events that bring in hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of strangers all together across every conceivable difference, health and otherwise, is not in the cards based upon our current guidelines and current expectations,” Newsom said.
Protests Against Shutdowns Sweep The World
Citizens around the world have begun protesting the lockdowns being forced on them by governments as a means to stop the Coronavirus. It’s happening in many major cities around the United States, but it’s also happening globally.
One of the most noteworthy protest marches is happening in Israel, where as many as 2000 Israeli citizens descended on Tel Aviv in Rabin square. They did it, though, while maintaining social distancing. Keeping six feet between them at all times, they formed a perfect, orderly social distance protest. The pictures are bizarre. Take a look…
In other places, social distancing rules were disregarded. For example, this video from Olympia, Washington shows hundreds of people loosely gathered in front of the state courthouse…
In Colorado healthcare workers showed up to counter protest and it looked like this…
I’m sure the healthcare workers were unaware that by showing they have the time to protest, they play into the protestors narrative that the hospitals aren’t actually all that busy.
In Tenessee the turnout wasn’t quite as big…
Though apparently it was more widespread with protests happening in locations all around the state. Families protested together….
How Long Do We Need To Be In Lockdown?
Until recently no one in the government anywhere has been willing to commit to a specific number indicating just how long we all are actually going to need to be in lockdown. Different states have different plans, but those plans are all based on specific targets and not really based on lengths of time.
Even though the Federal government and a number of state governments have released reopening plans, none of those plans have anything resembling actual dates or lengths of time. About as close as we can get are these comments from Dr. Fauci about the recently released Federal government reopening plan…
“Certain parts of the country are ready to take the first steps. You can’t look at it like turning a light switch on and off… The program that we spoke about yesterday at the [White House] press conference is a very gradual, step by step [plan] where you have to fulfill certain criteria before you go to Phase 1. It really works. If you do that and [number of COVID-19 cases] starts coming down, there’s no blips coming back, then you go to the next phase…. It was built to be really, really careful about the safety and health of the American public. That’s the first thing. It’s gradual. It’s not on and off.”
Fauci does go so far as to single out a few places where things might open up sooner… whatever sooner means. He continued…
“I was on the phone 10 minutes ago with Governor Cuomo in New York. And New York has suffered terribly in this through no fault of their own. They are certainly not ready to do anything dramatic in pulling back… Whereas you could go to a place like Wyoming or a place like New Mexico where they can already start tiptoeing back towards normality. It’s not unidimensional. It’s not like the United States is one homogeneous thing. It’s very different from region to region.”
If you’re in New Mexico congratulations. If you’re in New York, it sounds like you may have to wait for a vaccine which, incidentally, won’t be ready until maybe even next year. Of a Coronavirus vaccine Dr. Fauci says…
“We won’t have a vaccine for summer. It’s more likely we’ll have one for next winter.”
You can review the full Federal Government Reopening plan for the United States here.
The World Health Organization’s Guidelines For Lifting Lockdown
While the WHO itself may be under fire for possibly being a puppet of China, the doctors associated with them have continued doing their jobs. So the WHO (World Health Organization), for what it’s worth, has also put out six conditions that need to be met before the lockdown should be lifted. They were included in their 18-page COVID-19 Strategy Update. “This pandemic is much more than a health crisis,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus via Digital Trends. “It requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society response.”
Per their strategic plan, WHO feels these conditions must be met if countries are to safely lift their shelter-in-place orders:
- Control of COVID-19 transmission is at a level of sporadic cases and clusters of cases, all of these from either known contacts or importations.
- There needs to be a sufficient health system and public health capacities in place.
- The risk of outbreak in high-vulnerability places or settings are minimized.
- Preventative measures in the workplace must be established.
- The risk from travelers (imported cases) must be managed. There needs to be a system set in place to rapidly detect potential cases and to quarantine those cases.
- All communities are fully aware, engaged, and understand the major shift that needs to be implemented in control measures that will help limit or remove the spread of the virus.
Again, the question begs, who (not WHO) determines when we’ve fully hit the six conditions?
An East Coast And A West Coast Alliance Of States
Is this how the rest of the nation should be tackling the reopening of the country issue? Perhaps. It seems, though, the West Coast is on board as Newsom has been collaborating with Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Oregon Governor Kate Brown as they develop joint criteria on how to reopen their collective states.
The East Coast is seeing a similar group at work as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (he of the hardest-hit state in the U.S.) is working alongside New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Massachusetts plan to each name a public health official to be part of a regional working group. Also included will be a chief of staff of the governor of each state will be part of this group and once completely put together they will start on their reopening plan.
Pushback Against Stay At Home Orders
In some states, the stay-at-home order is meeting with more and more push back. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order is being challenged with Operation Gridlock, a large-scale protest against Whitmer’s decision to shutter all businesses in what she says is an attempt to slow down the coronavirus.
Operation Gridlock involves protestors converging on the Michigan state capital in Lansing, Michigan in their cars. Why are they staying in their cars? Protestors have been asked to comply with Michigan’s new social distancing order and, even though these groups may not agree with those orders, they’re following the law. By staying in their cars they can gather in larger groups without violating the order.
Meshawn Maddock, a Michigan Conservative Coalition spokeswoman, told the Washington Examiner, “There is no reason why she can’t be looking at some safe ways to be opening up businesses. Instead of talking about what’s essential and nonessential, let’s talk about what’s safe and not safe. Safe businesses and safe workers need to get back to work.”
Here’s what Operation Gridlock looked like in action…
There are fears that many more of these “Gridlocks” will be popping up across the country as more and more people lose money, jobs and everything else that goes along with it.
Will Large Gatherings Ever Come Back?
What about mass gatherings? Sports, in general. We all understand how America feels about their sports and this shutdown has truly affected a huge portion of who we are. From Newsom’s point of view, mass gatherings are not close to being in the cards. “The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity, and we get to a vaccine. So large-scale events that bring in hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of strangers all together across every conceivable difference, health and otherwise, is not in the cards based upon our current guidelines and current expectations,” Newsom said.
Florida, on the other hand, has deemed the WWE an “essential business”. Despite Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis giving a statewide “shelter in place” order, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said that the WWE was given then go-ahead to resume operations in their state. “With some conversation with the governor’s office regarding the governor’s order, they were deemed an essential business,” Demings said per ABC News. “And so, therefore, they were allowed to remain open. Which brings us to the rest of the sports world and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
Fauci, who has been in the spotlight probably more than he wishes the past few weeks, does believe that professional sports could resume over the summer, of course, no date has been mentioned, but he did say two conditions would have to be met for this to happen. (1) Fans could not be in attendance and (2) players need to be kept in hotels to protect their health.
During an interview with Snapchat’s Peter Hamby, Fauci said, “There’s a way of doing that. Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled… Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.” Fauci still believes that even if there aren’t any fans in attendance, there will be plenty of fan interest if the games were only available to watch on TV. He may have a point there.
How To Reopen During The Coronavirus Pandemic
So, what is the answer to reopening a country? Given the financial disaster we face in the present, just how bad will it look in the future? These answers are hard to come by. It’s hard to live by the “time will tell” attitude because the further we go down this path, the worse it becomes for small business owners and the millions living paycheck to paycheck. This pandemic will have long-lasting effect that goes without saying. But how soon we try to jump back up on that proverbial horse is a question, unfortunately, we do not have an answer for. Let’s hope it’s soon.